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Shaft Types - curved vs straight; ends at girth vs shoulder

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  • Shaft Types - curved vs straight; ends at girth vs shoulder

    Warning - Newbie Driving Question (and yes, I did a search first for "curved shafts")

    In researching carts, measurements, best practices etc.....I always see this notion of "shaft length" and how the shafts should be LEVEL.

    Like this:

    Straight Shaft (level/horizontal), ends at shoulders:
    http://www.carriagedrivingessentials...s/pi_1775.jpeg


    But what about all these different types of shafts? They start out low, then curve upwards. Some curve OUTWARDS so the shoulders have lots of room to move, and some end at the girth/saddle area....

    It seems to me these other types are more 'ergonomic' and allow the horse more freedom to move/manuever.

    I'm sorry if it's a dumb question - but which type is best? I really like the ones seen on that chestnut tobiano Shetland (on 'pony and carriage' picasa album)

    Can someone shed light on the different facets of shafts? Why some are totally straight and end at the horses' shoulder, some are curved (both upwards and outwards), some end at saddle/girth, some end just past it, but not near shoulder/chest.

    ??? Thanks!!

    Here are examples of the other kinds:
    Curved Shafts:

    http://lh6.ggpht.com/_rbbMVzlpl_o/SL...2/DSC00982.JPG

    http://lh5.ggpht.com/_rbbMVzlpl_o/Sg...2/DSC00294.JPG

    http://lh5.ggpht.com/_rbbMVzlpl_o/SL...2/DSC00977.JPG

    http://www.itebtebuggys.com/images/cart-donna-2.jpg

    Shaft Ends At Girth/Saddle (not at shoulder):

    http://lh6.ggpht.com/_rbbMVzlpl_o/Rv...n_cocky_08.jpg

    http://picasaweb.google.com/ponyandc...46099847690498
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Equine & Pet Portrait Artist
    www.elainehickman.com
    **Morgans Do It All**

  • #2
    Hi there...

    There are others on this forum that can give much better answers than me, but I'll take a stab at it.

    You typically see straight shafts on 2-wheel carriages such as a meadowbrook (shown in your first picture) or road cart. These are carriages that are seen in pleasure shows or the dressage/cones phase of a CDE (combined driving event).

    Two-wheel carriages that have curved shafts (end at point of shoulder) are typically gigs; again, another carriage used for pleasure driving/dressage/cones. You'll also see some marathon-type 2-wheel carriages with curved shafts--I've seen ones that end at the shoulder and others that end at the girth.

    When you are driving in a hazard on marathon (horse driving trials or combined driving events), shorter shafts (those that end at the girth) are better than those that end at the point of shoulder because those longer shafts can get hung up in the hazard on sharp turns.

    Our first 4-wheel marathon carriage had curved shafts that ended before the point of shoulder, but the problem with these types of shafts is that they often "poke" the horse in the shoulder in turns. Shafts that end at the saddle (and you'll often see pads under the ends) don't do this and also allow the horse more freedom (they don't feel as restricted between the shafts).

    Four-wheel marathon carriages also have a lower line of draft (single tree is closer to the front axle) which requires curved shafts (in order for them to angle up to the saddle). In addition, the shafts move independently, again allowing more freedom for the horse to move.

    I don't know if that is much help or not. The "best" type is going to be greatly dependent on the type of carriage you are driving and the type of driving you are doing.

    Comment


    • #3
      KellyS sums it up pretty well, I think.

      If you are just starting driving, it's best to get a two-wheel cart of some kind. They are more stable and less likely to tip or flip than four-wheel vehicles. They are also usually more affordable and lighter weight and lower maintenance.

      Most people start out with something similar to a Meadowbrook cart, maybe an Amish made one (antiques are not a good choice unless you are experienced at restoration). Or an easy-entry training cart type vehicle - the ones where you can step in from the side instead of climbing over the seat can be nice!

      The size will depend on your horse or pony.

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        Wow, thanks for the comprehensive answer, Kelly! Great pics, too....love the bay roan pony

        So I know we want our first cart to be 2 wheeled, and easy entry. We are just starting, so don't really know what we will end up doing, but we KNOW we won't get too serious - as we are really focused on our riding horses.

        I guess I still question - what is BEST for the pony's comfort? There must be some different "effects" of the straight, long Meadowbrook type shafts....versus the shafts that curve outwards, or the ones that end at saddle/girth?

        Does the freedom of the shorter shaft help a horse not feel too claustrophobic? Or is it the opposite, and does the long shaft help "contain" a horse so it doesn't wiggle as much?

        Doesn't the curving outwards shaft help so the horse can turn more easily?

        I'm just wondering the actual pros and cons (versus just knowing what type of cart it is, and what type of competition it's used in)

        Thanks!
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        Equine & Pet Portrait Artist
        www.elainehickman.com
        **Morgans Do It All**

        Comment


        • #5
          As far as freedom of movement between the shafts for your pony and trying to figure out the shafts, I feel it is more important (or at least just as) to have the shafts widely separated back where they attach to the vehicle. This gives the pony more room for bending and does not have him wedged in by two bookends. I have had a 2 wheeler with the short marathon shafts and they were more likely to poke the horse in the shoulder turning than the longer ones.

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Originally posted by 49'er View Post
            As far as freedom of movement between the shafts for your pony and trying to figure out the shafts, I feel it is more important (or at least just as) to have the shafts widely separated back where they attach to the vehicle. This gives the pony more room for bending and does not have him wedged in by two bookends. I have had a 2 wheeler with the short marathon shafts and they were more likely to poke the horse in the shoulder turning than the longer ones.
            Thanks 49er! This is the kind of feedback I'm looking for. So width for the hips is GOOD (freedom of movement)

            I can see your poing about shorter shafts tending to poke the shoulder...which is why I thought these ones were ergonomically better? Seem to provide the freedom to turn, without the "poke"?

            http://lh6.ggpht.com/_rbbMVzlpl_o/SL...2/DSC00982.JPG

            Thanks for tolerating the newbie questions! I'm hoping when we get to start driving lessons, the trainer can of course guide us
            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
            Equine & Pet Portrait Artist
            www.elainehickman.com
            **Morgans Do It All**

            Comment


            • #7
              Definitely a more curved shaft (curved away from the horses' body starting around the flank and back). The straight shafts prevent the horse from bending their body and they have to take turns kind of "side stepping." And it can confuse them if they are negotiating a tight turn (although an experienced driving horse will understand they can move their cart).

              As for the length, I prefer a shaft that ends at the shoulder. The short shafts worry me with tight turns, since the shaft will poke into the horse. However, with longer shafts, you do have to watch the shoulder and make sure you don't poke the tip of the shaft through a fence!

              Also, one thing not mentioned here yet are the wheels. If you're going to be doing ANY outdoor driving, get wooden wheels. The pneumatic tires aren't safe outside - they puncture too easily and aren't as stable on uneven terrain. And if possible, get enclosed wheels so you can't catch them on a fencepost or tree. They might not be available on carts - I think I've only seen them on racing sulkies and work bikes - but if you find a cart with this feature, give it a good look. (I think Meadowbrooks have "fenders" that do the same thing).

              I owned this cart for awhile and really liked it. The only reason I got rid of it was because it was too small for my new horse. Unfortunately it has pneumatic tires, and I did have many flats while driving outside. It's excellent for arena driving. But if you can find a similar one with wooden wheels, it's what I'd recommend.

              Comment


              • #8
                Good question, as though I have been driving for a while, I am always learning and reading to better educate myself.

                I drive a village cart with straight shafts, they are at my draft mare's shoulder. I have had another cart that the shafts were a bit longer and even though we took up the slack in the hold backs, when she turned they did poke her in the shoulder and my mare hated it, so I sold it.

                Someone mentioned the movement of the hips and space for the equine, so it got me thinking, that Smoke too has movement and a bit of space should she shift or when were turning, no tightness there as well.

                Here is a picture of what we look like and where the shafts sit...

                http://i13.photobucket.com/albums/a2...ominion097.jpg

                Comment


                • #9
                  This is almost funny because I just logged on to ask about these http://www.flickr.com/photos/hfsh/3733900396/sizes/l/ Purpose and what are they called?

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    I'd like to know, too...

                    Originally posted by nightmoves View Post
                    This is almost funny because I just logged on to ask about these http://www.flickr.com/photos/hfsh/3733900396/sizes/l/ Purpose and what are they called?
                    Bumping this, as I'd love to know the answer, too.

                    Seems to me the shaft shape has a huge effect on the comfort of the horse as it's being asked to manuever.

                    So far, my take away is:
                    - Have enough room (width) for the back-end of the body
                    - Make sure shaft tips don't "poke" the shoulders

                    Sounds like some horses don't prefer the super long shafts as it confines them too much? But some of the shorter ones CAN poke them?

                    The ones that end at the saddle/girth don't poke them, correct?

                    Thanks for helping me learn, gang
                    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                    Equine & Pet Portrait Artist
                    www.elainehickman.com
                    **Morgans Do It All**

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I think you guys are getting a little hung up on this "poking" idea.

                      The normal, straight, end-at-the-shoulders type cart shafts don't "poke" the horse. The reason the marathon vehicles have the rolled back shafts that end by the girth is because you are doing hazards where you have to practically jack-knife around at high speeds and zigzag through trees, poles, and artificial obstacles that are tight together, and again you are going for speed. It gives you more room to do that without hitting the end of the shaft on something, plus allowing the horse to turn more sharply in a restricted space. But marathon shafts are also attached to the cart differently - they are hinged, and the horse can walk them around so you almost make an L-shape.

                      With a standard cart with straight shafts, they are attached to the cart in a fixed way, and not hinged. You don't use a cart like that for going through tight zig-zag obstacles as fast as possible - you are in a ring, on the road, maybe even in a field or path through the woods, etc. but it's a different use.

                      The shaft is not going to somehow poke the horse in the shoulder randomly, or even in turns. The one time the horse will come into contact with it is if you ask them to turn the cart in place, if you need or want to change direction in a narrow space, and that is done by teaching them to push against the one shaft with their shoulder, and slowly step around to the side. The cart then pivots in place, and you head off in the other direction. I just the other day saw a 4 year old mare taught to do it for the first time, and it took her all of five minutes to get the hang of it and do it well.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Sorry, kind of long!

                        Originally posted by nightmoves View Post
                        This is almost funny because I just logged on to ask about these http://www.flickr.com/photos/hfsh/3733900396/sizes/l/ Purpose and what are they called?
                        This is a Gig, with Gig shafts rather than just curved shafts. The bend is much more pronounced in true Gig shafts. Big curve adds to the stylish look of the nice vehicle. I would say this is a very nice turnout for looks.

                        As TFP said, the poking is getting more attention than is needed. Any vehicle that has shafts ending at the point of shoulder, will need horse to push it over at some time with his shoulder. Horse should NOT object, it is part of the job managing the vehicle as a driving horse! 2-wheel cart or 4-wheeler, the shaft will be pushed over to make turns.

                        Short shafts, on both 2 or 4 wheel vehicles allow much sharper turns for competition driving. Horse can bend at the saddle, not held rigid thru barrel like with long shafts. Being short, these shafts change the equation in the mechanics of harness and vehicle. The shaft ends need to be secured to prevent falling out of tug loops in going forward, padded to prevent running into the horse's ribs on sharp turns. Traces need to be adjusted so horse is not pulling shafts from the tug loops, causing saddle problems.

                        "But marathon shafts are also attached to the cart differently - they are hinged, and the horse can walk them around so you almost make an L-shape.

                        With a standard cart with straight shafts, they are attached to the cart in a fixed way, and not hinged. You don't use a cart like that for going through tight zig-zag obstacles as fast as possible - you are in a ring, on the road, maybe even in a field or path through the woods, etc. but it's a different use."

                        Not quite sure what is meant here. A cart ALWAYS has two wheels, NEVER would have hinged shafts. A hinge in the shafts would have the 2-wheeled vehicle on the ground! Short or long shafted, a CART has rigid shafts from front to the back of vehicle. Shafts could be springy, but there is no hinge in them anywhere.

                        Competition 4-wheelers have independent shafts, which means they move individually on their hinge, not like buggy or cart shafts. Right side can be straight up, while left side shaft is in the tug loop on horse. Buggy shafts are always parallel, so right side beside horse means the left side is required to be on the other side of horse also.

                        These 4-wheeler vehicles have got a full-fifth wheel as the hinge point for turning. This hinge under the vehicle body, is what allows the tight turn radius of the vehicles. Whether that competition vehicle has long or short shafts, it still will allow a short turning radius.

                        I will agree that the width of shafts, curves in the length to fit horse, will allow horse to turn or bend inside them with varying degrees of success. Better vehicle shafts often are curved several ways for a good fit.

                        Looking at shafts from the side, the lines tend to follow or match the lines of vehicle body. Straight, flat CART shafts looking at them from the side of horse, front to back, go with the common Road Cart, Meadowbrook types. Yet if you stand in front of horse, the shaft tip starts with a outward flared curve, then inward at the saddle area, then an outward curve again to go wider around the barrel, stifle and hind legs.

                        Long shafts SHOULD have the tip even with the horse's point of shoulder. Not ahead of shoulder, or behind by the chest area.

                        Short shafts are fitted variously, depending on how the shaft ends, ring, loop, round tube with blunt end. I would say they all need a pad of some sort behind them, covering the saddle area. There are specialty pads that cover a lot of area, smaller "lilypads" that just fit behind the end of shafts so they don't go into the horse barrel on sharp turns. What you may want in padding, is going to depend on how the shafts move on your horse in motion.

                        If you are just planning on pleasure driving, maybe some pleasure showing, I would go with the longer shafted vehicle, that allows horse room to bend between the shafts. Can be either 2 or 2-wheel vehicle. Design is tried and true, well tested over many years. Typical harness is designed to work well on these vehicles.

                        Modern vehicles are REALLY new thinking. They may take some tweaking to get it well-fitting, SAFE, comfortable for horse. You probably will need some help to figure out problems that will come along later. You will need specialty items on your harness, like quick-release tug loops and the extra padding. It changes balance and pull on the animal himself, especially if you use a 2-wheeler. Could lead to odd sorenesses from pulling with the saddle instead of the traces.

                        There are many dynamics involved in making your vehicle and harness choices work for you. You have to decide what your goals are FIRST, get equipment that is suitable for that use. You might change your mind later, expand your driving horizons, in which case you will need other equipment then.

                        There is no one vehicle that is going to suit ALL driving needs excellently. Many vehicles can do a wide variety of driving activities and make you quite happy. Same vehicle is hated by other drivers doing the same stuff you do!! Sorry, I can't point out any that will make you all happy! You learn about of vehicles by looking, asking questions, seeing vehicles in use. Driving one if the opportunity comes up.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by goodhors View Post

                          "But marathon shafts are also attached to the cart differently - they are hinged, and the horse can walk them around so you almost make an L-shape.

                          With a standard cart with straight shafts, they are attached to the cart in a fixed way, and not hinged. You don't use a cart like that for going through tight zig-zag obstacles as fast as possible - you are in a ring, on the road, maybe even in a field or path through the woods, etc. but it's a different use."

                          Not quite sure what is meant here. A cart ALWAYS has two wheels, NEVER would have hinged shafts. A hinge in the shafts would have the 2-wheeled vehicle on the ground! Short or long shafted, a CART has rigid shafts from front to the back of vehicle. Shafts could be springy, but there is no hinge in them anywhere.

                          Competition 4-wheelers have independent shafts, which means they move individually on their hinge, not like buggy or cart shafts. Right side can be straight up, while left side shaft is in the tug loop on horse. Buggy shafts are always parallel, so right side beside horse means the left side is required to be on the other side of horse also.

                          These 4-wheeler vehicles have got a full-fifth wheel as the hinge point for turning. This hinge under the vehicle body, is what allows the tight turn radius of the vehicles. Whether that competition vehicle has long or short shafts, it still will allow a short turning radius.
                          That's what I meant! Just didn't get it from my brain to my keyboard in an accurate way. Thx.

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Thanks for the very detailed elaboration, GH! That is fantastic information.

                            I think we'll be "keeping it simple" when we do actually buy our first cart. Just wanted to make sure I was armed with more info on the different shaft types, etc.

                            I really like the gigs I've been seeing!

                            It's unfortunate that most of the "starter carts" I'm finding have the bicycle tires/wheels that everyone warns about (especially since I'm looking at Small Shetland Sized stuff)

                            Will just keep my eyes peeled and in the meantime, continue long-lining the pony...and start driving lessons with the ASB trainer down the street.
                            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                            Equine & Pet Portrait Artist
                            www.elainehickman.com
                            **Morgans Do It All**

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Here's another one the shafts are "gooseneck gig shafts". Thanks for the information.
                              http://www.colonialcarriage.com/item.cfm?id=202

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Fancy That View Post
                                It's unfortunate that most of the "starter carts" I'm finding have the bicycle tires/wheels that everyone warns about (especially since I'm looking at Small Shetland Sized stuff)
                                I drive a miniature horse at the Preliminary level in CDE's (that black mini with the blue Ite Bitty cart you showed belonged to a friend of mine, Donna Stormer) and run the website http://www.cde4vse.com so I'm familiar with a lot of the "small shetland" type stuff available today. I know that for a larger horse, pneumatic tires are really a poor option due to the extra weight of the turnout and extreme size of the wheel, but I have to say they're not that bad on a smaller turnout. You can easily purchase No-Flat inserts which effectively prevent the dreaded flat, the wider tread floats better on top of deep footing than a wooden or narrow steel wheel does, and they save a lot of weight for a small animal. Obviously the other wheel types are much sturdier and built for tougher use, but if you're starting out with a small pony or miniature horse there's nothing wrong with a pneumatic tire as long as you take steps to prevent a flat. I'm not certain what was meant by the comment that they "aren't as stable on uneven terrain," unless it's that carts with pneumatic tires often sit high above the wheels rather than having the axle run under the seat so the vehicle has a lower center of gravity. That's a feature of vehicle type though, not wheel type.

                                As for the shafts, one thing I haven't seen pointed out in this thread yet is that harness adjustment has a tremendous amount to do with the horse's comfort in any kind of shaft. GH mentioned that the horse can be made sore by pulling from the saddle with marathon shafts, and the answer to that is to make sure your traces are correctly adjusted so the breastcollar comes into play before the tugs do. If your longer shafts are poking the horse's shoulder or neck on turns (actively poking, not pushing into the shoulder,) then you need to look at the adjustment of your breeching and the height of your tug loops to make sure the shafts cannot swing forward into the horse's neck. You also must check the balance of your two-wheel cart to make sure the shafts will be light and stable and not prone to swinging around wildly over varied terrain. Correct harness adjustment has everything to do with how happy your horse will be in his work.

                                In my experience with miniatures, there are really only three or four kinds of shafts in use for smaller horses at this point. There's a straight shaft, which may be seen totally horizontal (as in an easy entry) or angling up from a low show cart or roadster cart. There are bent shafts, meaning they appear bent from a side view as well as from above. And there are marathon shafts, which right now in the U.S. only come as closed loops at the saddle for miniature horses. The important thing with all of these types is that they be the correct length and height for your horse, have the harness adjusted correctly, and that the horse be trained in correctly maneuvering with them.

                                There must be enough room behind the saddle area for the horse to move his or her hips over for bending, the shafts should bend in towards the saddle sufficiently for the tugs to be near the horse, and it's preferable that the rest of the shaft in front of the saddle should angle away from the horse at least a little bit to enable them to turn with more ease. A cart whose shafts are completely straight from front to back as seen from above is to be avoided at all costs- even the most basic easy entry on the market will have that front-to-back bend to some extent for the sake of the horse's comfort.

                                My particular horse has some back problems so he isn't too happy making tight turns or pivoting in a show cart because he feels confined. He's used to my Bellcrown with the nice bent shafts and he now makes his objections known when the straight wooden shafts push into his shoulders on turns. The Bellcrown he likes because the shafts bend away from his shoulders, and the Frontier easy entry and Hyperbike (the roadster cart I showed) are both wide enough, light enough and easy enough to turn that he handles them fine despite the straight shafts. I've only had him in marathon shafts once before he injured himself this year, but I got the impression he really liked them and mentally felt much freer about making turns in them. Every horse is different though, and most will handle your average easy entry cart fine. Just make sure the shaft length is correct and your harness is adjusted to keep the shaft tips at the horse's shoulders through turns and halts and he'll be fine. Good luck!

                                Leia
                                Hey look, I joined ANOTHER forum! And you thought horses were addictive.

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by hobbyhorse23 View Post
                                  I drive a miniature horse at the Preliminary level in CDE's (that black mini with the blue Ite Bitty cart you showed belonged to a friend of mine, Donna Stormer) and run the website http://www.cde4vse.com so I'm familiar with a lot of the "small shetland" type stuff available today. <SNIP>
                                  Leia
                                  Leia - WOW - thank you so much! I had no idea about your website or the the Mini CDE one! What a wealth of information.

                                  And thanks for the additional feedback on how correct harness adjustment helps, in addition to shafts, etc.

                                  Appreciate your view of the pneumatic "bicycle tire" as well....since it really was just about on all the "starter type/easy entry" small pony carts I was finding!

                                  So much to research. Thanks again.

                                  BTW, my pony "just misses" the VSE category She is a small Shetland at 10.1 1/2 hands (or 41.5")....so it seems she's in between the common sizes of "Miniature" and "Pony" with many items.

                                  I love researching, and in the meantime, we are continueing our long-lining...
                                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                                  Equine & Pet Portrait Artist
                                  www.elainehickman.com
                                  **Morgans Do It All**

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